LETTER - TO A CLERGYMAN OF BUCKS.
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I am much surprised, my friend, that you should still want more to be said, about the doctrine of imputation, whether of Adam’s sin, or the righteousness of Christ to his followers. Our polluted sinful birth of Adam, is all the sin we can have from him; and our supernatural birth of Christ, is all the righteousness that we possibly can have from him.
Imputation neither hath, nor can have anything to do in either case; sin and righteousness are both inward and innate things, and the sole work of the spirit, that lives in us. That which is born of God, is godly, and cannot sin; and that which is born of sinful man, cannot be without a sinful nature and tempers. Cain could not possibly have any other natural life, than that which was in Adam; and therefore so sure as Adam in soul, spirit, and body, was all sin and corruption, so sure is it, that all his offspring must come from him in the same depravity of soul, spirit and body. And to talk of their having this disordered fallen nature, not from their natural birth, but by an outward imputation of it to them, is quite absurd, as to say, that they have their hands and feet, or the whole form of their body, not from their natural birth, but by an outward imputation of such a form, and members to them. Suppose it was said, that Adam’s evil and polluted condition of body and soul, was not the natural effect of his transgression, but independently of that, came upon him from God’s imputing it to him, as his, though it was not his. What a blasphemy would this be? And yet not less than that, of saying, that his children have their evil nature, the sinful state of their wills and affections, not by their natural birth from him, but independently of that, solely from God’s imputing Adam’s sinful nature to Cain, though he was by birth free from sin, and born in the purity and perfection, in which Adam was created; for so he must have been, if his birth had nothing of sinful Adam in it. But if Cain was not so born, then he had his sin, not by an imputation of another’s sin to him, but plainly in the same way of natural birth, as every man has his natural life and form of his body, from parents of the same nature and form. And indeed, to speak of sin imputed to a person that has it not, and so made his, is the same absurdity, as speaking of will and affections, imputed to a person that has them not, and so made his. For sin is nowhere but in, and from the will and affections, and therefore to make sin to be there by imputation, where it is not, has no more sense in it, than to make will and affections, to be by imputation in a creature that has them not. “As in Adam all die,” says the text: is not this the same, as saying, that all men have their fallen nature, because born of Adam? Say, this does not follow, and then the matter will stand thus: “In Adam all die”: but why, or how? Why because no man hath the evil of a mortal fallen nature from his birth from Adam, but merely by God’s free imputation of it to him.
But such a free imputation of Adam’s sinful state to his children, when they had it not by natural birth, is quite blasphemous, and leaves no room for magnifying the free grace of God in Christ Jesus; since free grace comes only to help man out of a sinful state which he had not by natural birth, but came upon him, by God’s free imputation of it to him, when he had it not. Thus, the adorable love of God in his free grace in Christ Jesus, is quite destroyed, upon supposition, that mankind have not their sinful state from their natural birth from Adam, but by a free imputation of it by God to them.
Take now the other part of the text, so “in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Is it not a flat denial of all this, to say, they are not made alive by a birth of that to which Adam died, brought to life again in them, but are accounted as if they were alive, by the imputation of Christ’s life to them, but not born in them? Could dead Lazarus have been said to have been made alive again, if still lying in the grave, he had only been accounted as alive, by having the nature of a living man, only imputed to him?
Our Lord said to a leper, whom he had cleansed, “Go, show thyself to the priest,” etc. But if instead of cleansing him, he had bid him go to the priest, to be accounted as a clean man, by the imputation of another’s cleanness to him, had he not still been under all the evil of his own leprosy? Now this is strictly the case of the righteousness of Christ, only outwardly imputed to us, and not inwardly born within us. A fiction, that runs counter to all that Christ and his apostles, have said of the nature of our salvation. We want Christ’s righteousness, because by our natural birth, we are inwardly full of evil; therefore saith Christ, “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” Does not this place all in a birth? But a birth, and outward imputation, are inconsistent; that which is born in us, cannot be said, to be outwardly imputed to us. “I am the vine,” saith Christ, “ye are the branches.” Now if this be a true representation of the matter, then these two plain doctrines of Christ, affirming, (1) the absolute necessity of a new birth from above, and (2) declaring this birth to be as really brought forth in us, as the life of the vine is really in the branches, do, as far as words can do it, entirely reject the notion of a righteousness imputed to us from without; a righteousness, that has no more to do with our own life, after it is imputed to us, than it had a thousand years before we were born. For that which is not in us, or ours, by a birth of itself in us, can never be any nearer to us, or have a more real union with us, after it is called ours, than before it was so called.
It is needless to cite places of scripture, affirming that all consists in a Christ revealed, begotten, formed and living in us. Let this one word of Paul suffice, “Yet not I, but Christ that liveth in me.” He does not say, a Christ who is only called his, or outwardly imputed to him, but quite the contrary, a Christ who liveth in him.
Again, if Christ’s holy nature, be not a birth in us, but only outwardly imputed to us, then no virtue, or power of an holy life, can have any more real existence, or vital growth in us, than in the devils, but are only outwardly imputed to us, and not to them, only called ours, and not theirs, though we have no more of them within us, than they have. Thus, be ye “holy, for I am holy; be ye perfect, as your Father, which is in heaven, is perfect; thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” etc. All these are but vain exhortations to do, and be, that which is not within our sphere, but entirely inconsistent with it. For these virtues are, in their whole nature, nothing else but the very righteousness of Christ, therefore if that can be only outwardly imputed to us, the same must be said of all those virtues, that they can have no real life or growth in us, but only outwardly imputed to us. And indeed, unless Christ be truly and essentially born in us, we can have no more of any Christian virtue, but the empty, outward name of it: for neither man, nor angel ever did, or can thus love God with all his heart, be holy because God is holy, be perfect as he is perfect, but because there is a spirit born and living in them, which is of God, from God, and partakes of the divine nature.
Further, say that the Holy Spirit is not born and living in us, that his operation is not inwardly in us, as the spirit of our spirit, the life of our life, but only outwardly imputed to us, as if he was in us, though he be not there: what a blasphemy would this be! And yet full as well, as to say the same of Christ, and his righteousness. For if Christ was only outwardly imputed to us, the same must, of all necessity be said of the Holy Spirit; for where and what Christ is, there and that is the Holy Spirit. How constantly are we told in scripture, that they only are sons of God, “who are led by the Spirit of God”; that unless “a man hath the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his; that if Christ be not in us, we are reprobates.” Now I would ask, can any man be truly said to be led by the spirit of the world, the flesh and the devil, who has nothing of this spirit living in him, but only outwardly imputed to him? Can any creature be said to be led by the spirit of man, who has not the nature of man within him, but only outwardly imputed to him? Yes, just as a beast may be said to be a Newtonian philosopher, by having Sir Isaac’s system outwardly imputed to him.
Take notice, sir, that if Christ’s righteous and holy nature is only outwardly imputed to Christians, then all of them, whether they are called good, or bad, are without any difference as to their inward man, and all under the same unaltered evil of their fallen nature, as much after, as they were before Christ’s righteousness was imputed to them. When a good man has anything falsely laid to his charge, is not this outwardly imputing something to him, that is not his, does not belong to him? But is not his own inward goodness just in the same fullness of truth in him, after such an imputation of evil to him, as it was before it was so imputed. Now this is the whole nature of imputation; and therefore if the righteous nature of Christ is only outwardly imputed to the sinner, it leaves him in all the evil of his fallen nature, and can no more make him inwardly good, than a good man can be made inwardly evil, by having an evil outwardly imputed to him, that is not his.
The relation between Christ and the fallen soul, is thus: Christ is the one mediator between God and man, and that which his mediation consists in, is the restoring that life in man, which was his first created union with God. Nothing separated man from God, or made him want a mediator, but the loss of his first divine life; and therefore nothing can mediate, or be a means of union again between God and man, but that which can, and doth raise again in man, that divine life which was his first union with God.
Everything therefore, that is said of this one mediator, as redeeming, ransoming, justifying, sanctifying, making peace, or reconciliation, etc., however variously expressed, has no other nature, or meaning, but that of making fallen man, inwardly alive again in God. He in whom Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, has just that same change made in him, just that same done to him, as he that has his sins washed and cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. For these different expressions mean only one and the same thing, and that one thing, is Christ in us, our hope of glory. This is justification, sanctification, redemption, peace, reconciliation, and everlasting union with God. Trifling therefore, to the last degree, is their orthodoxy, who raise disputes, and set up different doctrines, on the different meaning of these words, and the danger of not knowing, or not stiffly contending for the blessed difference between justification and sanctification, etc., full as trifling, as to raise disputes, and set up different doctrines on the different names given to Jesus Christ, as Word of God, son of man, Lamb of God, alpha and omega, mediator, Immanuel, atonement, reconciliation, resurrection, etc., and the great danger of ascribing that to Christ, as our reconciliation, which only belongs to him, as called the resurrection and the life. Figure to yourself such an orthodox dispute as this, and then you will see the importance of that pious zeal, which will not suffer justification and sanctification to encroach upon one another.
What an egregious folly, to be learnedly laborious in dividing and distinguishing those different names of Christ, or the different effects of his purchasing, justifying, or sanctifying our souls, etc., when all that these things are told us for, and all the benefit that we can receive from them, lies solely in this one word of Christ, “if anyone will be my disciple” (that is, if anyone will have the benefit of all that I am, and of all that is said of me) “let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Then, and then only, all the different names of Christ, and all the different powers ascribed to him, will be, not critically, but blessedly known and understood to be one, as God is one, whether he be called I AM, or the creator of heaven and earth, or the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But to proceed: all that is said of the nature, office, and qualities of Christ, in order to be our redeemer, is so much said of the necessity of their being essentially found, and realized in every soul, that is to partake of his redemption. If “Christ be not in us, we are none of his.” But how can Christ be in us, but because all that which Christ was, in the Spirit and nature of his whole process, is in us, as it was in him? If the same mind be not in us, which was in Christ Jesus; if that which loved, that which willed, that which suffered in him, be not the same spirit in us, we shall never reign with him. He may be truly called a redeemer, but we are not his redeemed, for such as the redeemer is, such are they that are redeemed. “To him that overcometh,” saith Christ, “will I grant to sit with me on my throne, (N.B.) even as I overcame, and am set down with my Father on his throne.” What becomes now of the vain fiction of an outward imputation? Is Christ’s victory here imputed to us? Is not the contrary as strongly taught us, as words can do it? “To him that overcometh, even as I also overcame.”
Can we have fuller proof, that Christ’s righteous nature must be inwardly born, living and manifesting itself in us, as it did in him; how else can we overcome, even as he overcame? That Spirit which overcame in Christ, was manifest in the flesh, for no other end, but that the same conquering Spirit might be born in us. And when that is done, then all is done, by that grace of God, which bringeth salvation, justification, sanctification, or the new creature. For whether you call it by one, or by all these names, it is the white stone with the new name written in it, which no man knoweth, but he that hath received it. And that for this reason, because it is no outwardly imputed thing, but is the new name, the new nature and Spirit of Christ, become all in all in us, and so only to be known by those, who have it brought to life in them.
Again, “This is my blood, which is shed for many, for the remission of sins”; what follows? Why, “Drink ye all of this. If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him. The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all iniquity; who hath washed us from our sins in his blood.” Now to show you, that all these different sayings have but one and the same doctrine, you need only read the following decisive words: “These are they that came out of the great tribulation,” (that, is have trodden the wine press with Christ) “and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” Here you see is no outward imputation of the sufferings of Christ, but “their coming out of great tribulation,” or passing through the whole process of Christ, was that alone, which made their “robes to be washed in the blood of the Lamb.” And no other doctrine is in this text, than if it had been said, “these are they, who having denied themselves, taken up their daily cross, and followed Christ, have thereby washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.” Through all the New Testament, this is the one doctrine of salvation through the blood of Christ, it is “drinking the cup, that he drank of,” and not the bitterness of his cup outwardly imputed to us.
You tell me, my friend, that the seraphic Aspatio is quite transported with the thought of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner, and that it should in the account of God, be esteemed as his. It may be so, transport seems to be as natural to Aspatio, as flying is to a bird. But surely, a more transporting, a more glorious thing it is, both to the glory of God, and the good of man, that the sinner is, through the righteous nature of Christ, born and brought to life in him, set up again in his first likeness and image of God. For if man’s righteousness is not essentially restored in him, as it was essentially in him at the first, has he not less of God in him, by his redemption, than he had at his creation? Is it to the happiness of man, and the glory of God, that God has not obtained that dwelling in man, for which he alone created him?
Is it matter of transport to think, that fallen man will to all eternity live destitute of his first heavenly nature, his first divine life, which he had in, and from God? But this must be the case, if Christ’s righteousness is only outwardly imputed to him, and not essentially born in him.
Transports, my friend, are but poor proofs of truth, or of the goodness of the heart, from whence they proceed. Martyrdom has had its fools, as well as its saints, and zealots may live and die in a joy, that has all its strength from delusion.
You may see a man drowned in tears, at beholding, and kissing a wooden crucifix, and the same man condemning another, as a wicked heretic, who only honors the cross, by being daily baptized into the death of Christ.
Nay, so blind is opinion-zeal, that some good Christian pastors will not scruple to tell you, they could find no joy in their own state, no strength, or comfort in their labors of love towards their flocks, but because they know, and are assured from St. Paul, that God never had, nor ever will have, mercy on all men, but that an unknown multitude of them, are through all ages of the world, inevitably decreed by God to an eternal fire, and damnation of hell, and an unknown number of others, to an irresistible salvation.
Wonder not then, if the inquisition has its pious defenders, for inquisition-cruelty, nay, every barbarity that must have an end, is mere mercy, if compared with this doctrine. And to be in love with it, to draw sweet comfort from it, and wish it God speed, is a love that absolutely forbids the loving our neighbor, as ourselves, and makes the wish, that all men might be saved, no less than a rebellion against God. It is a love, with which, the cursed hater of all men, would willingly unite and take comfort; for could he know from St. Paul, that millions, and millions of mankind, are created and doomed to be his eternal slaves, he might be as content with this doctrine, as some good preachers are, and cease “going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour”; as knowing, that his kingdom, was so sufficiently provided for, without any labors of his own.
Oh, the sweetness of God’s election, cries out the ravished preacher! Oh, the sweetness of God’s reprobation! might the hellish Satan well say, could he believe that God had made him a free gift of such myriads, and myriads of men, of all nations, tongues and languages, from the beginning to the end of the world, and reserved so small a number for himself. This is the blessed fruit of the imputation doctrine.
What a complaint, and condemnation is there made in scripture, of those who sacrificed their sons and daughters unto devils? And yet, this reprobation doctrine, represents God, as sacrificing myriads of his own creatures, made in his own image, to an everlasting hell.
There is not an absurdity of heathenish faith and religion, but what is less shocking than this doctrine, and yet so blindly are some zealous doctors of the gospel bigoted to it, as to set it forth, as the glorious manifestation of the supreme sovereignty of God.
My friend, let any old woman preach to you, rather than these doctors.
But to end in one word, Christ’s righteousness is ours, in our redemption, just in the same manner, as it was Adam’s in his first holy birth. For Adam had then no righteousness in him, but that which was created in Christ Jesus. And that is the one only reason, why there could be no other redeemer but Christ, because the loss of Christ, was that death which Adam died by his fall; and therefore no possibility of coming out of his fallen state, but in, and by a birth of Christ’s righteous nature, essentially born and living in him, as it was living in him before he fell. “Little children,” saith St. John, “let no man deceive you; (N.B.) he that doth righteousness, is righteous, (N.B.) even as he is righteous.” Therefore to expect, or trust to be made righteous, by the righteousness of another, only outwardly imputed to us, is, according to the apostle deceiving ourselves.
Either man, by the mediation of Christ, is united again with God, or he is not; if he is not, then he has no more of the divine life in him, after his redemption, than he had before he was redeemed. But if he is again united with God, as he was at his creation, then his redemption must wholly consist in the birth of a divine nature and Spirit, essentially brought to life in him. That which is spirit in man, must be godlike, before it can united with that Spirit, which is God. And was there not a divine Spirit in man, truly born of God, proceeding from the Spirit of God, as his real offspring, no union of will, love, or desire, could be between God and man. For this is a truth, that extends itself through all that is natural, or supernatural, that like can only unite with like. There is not separation between things, but that which is effected by contrariety. If therefore nothing in man was a partaker of the divine nature, man must in his whole nature, be forever separated from God, and stand in the same impossibility of being united with him, that two the most contrary things, do to one another. So sure, therefore, as the mediation of Christ, is by himself declared to be for this end, viz., “that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one”; so sure is it, that an outwardly imputed Christ, is as absurd in itself, and as contrary to scripture, as an outwardly imputed God.